Dexter Gordon

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Dexter Gordon live in Amsterdam (1980)

Dexter Gordon (born February 27, 1923 in Los Angeles , California , † April 25, 1990 in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania ) was an American tenor saxophonist .


Dexter Gordon is seen as the first major hard bop saxophonist. After studying with Lloyd Reese , his career began in 1940 in Lionel Hampton's band , where he stayed until 1942. After brief appearances together with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra and Louis Armstrong , he moved to New York in 1944 and played there in the big band of Billy Eckstine ( Billy Eckstine and His Orchestra ).
At the age of twenty he recorded under his own name for the first time ("I've Found A New Baby" / "Sweet Lorraine" for Mercury ); his teammates were Harry Sweets Edison and Nat King Cole . In 1945 he made recordings with Sir Charles Thompson's All Stars with Charlie Parker as well as his first recordings for Savoy , which released his compositions "Dexter's Cuttin 'Out" and "Dexter's Minor Mad" (later as LP Long Tall Dexter ). In January 1946 he recorded with Bud Powell , Curly Russell and Max Roach ("I Can't Escape From You" / "Dexter Digs In"); In 1947 he had a quintet with Teddy Edwards , with whom he recorded for Dial Records . Melba Liston , Jimmy Rowles and Red Callender also worked on these recordings, which are among the most important of his career .
In the following years he played with various musicians, both on the east and west coast (e.g. with Dizzy Gillespie ). A special live attraction were the saxophone duels with his colleague Wardell Gray (“The Chase”) and Gene Ammons (“Blowing the Blues away” in Billy Eckstine's band), which were also immortalized on numerous records between 1947 and 1952. In 1950 he accompanied the singer Helen Humes .

In the 1950s, his drug addiction took off, which he only got under control again around 1960. In 1954 he was a composer, musician and actor in the play The Connection , a production of the " Living Theater ", in which Jackie McLean also participated. In 1955 he recorded with Conte Candoli , Frank Rosolino , Kenny Drew for Bethlehem Records . He was also in prison for heroin possession for much of the decade.

In October 1960, Gordon had the first opportunity to record again; The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon was created for Jazzland with local musicians from LA around Larance Marable . In 1961 he made a comeback with some successful Blue Note recordings such as Doin 'Alright with Freddie Hubbard and Go! with Sonny Clark . He also performed briefly in New York (which he saw again for the first time in 12 years), but then, after the success of a European tour in 1962, settled in Paris (not least because of the more liberal drug laws), where he worked with other American musicians in exile worked together. Many notable Blue Note recordings date from the 1960s, such as B. Our Man in Paris 1963 with Bud Powell and the drummer Kenny Clarke or Gettin 'Around with Bobby Hutcherson and Barry Harris .

Dexter Gordon, ca.1980

In the late 1960s, Gordon moved to Copenhagen . His presence had a decisive influence on the development of the Danish jazz scene. He played with local musicians such as bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and played until the mid-1970s, a number prized albums for the Danish label Steeplechase one, besides also for prestige during his occasional visits to the US, such as the 1970 Tommy Flanagan rehearsed Album The Panther! . In 1972 he worked with the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band and with Thad Jones ( Ca'Purange ). In 1976 Dexter Gordon returned to New York. His performance at Village Vanguard was a triumph (album Homecoming ). In 1978 he performed with Johnny Griffin at New York's Carnegie Hall .

In 1986 he had the lead role of Dale Turner in Bertrand Tavernier's film at midnight ( Round Midnight ), the Bud Powell and Lester Young was dedicated. Regardless, the film's story also bears similarities to Dexter Gordon's own biography. He was nominated for an Oscar for the role . The appearance on Round Midnight was his third film appearance. It made its first, somewhat strange appearance while in prison for heroin possession. In the movie Unchained , he played a prison inmate who is a member of a prison band. The soundtrack for this was later set to music. In 1990 he starred in the Penny Marshall film Time of Awakening alongside Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, a patient suffering from European sleeping sickness .

For the soundtrack of the film Round Midnight , Gordon starred with Wayne Shorter , Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Hancock , John McLaughlin , Pierre Michelot and Billy Higgins . In 1987 Dexter Gordon's last recordings were made at the Chicago Jazz Festival and with singer Tony Bennett .

He was named Musician of the Year by American jazz magazine Down Beat in 1978 and 1980 .

Dexter Gordon's sound was voluminous and smooth with a slight "backward" tendency; H. behind the beat to play. He had one of his greatest influences from Lester Young . He was never revolutionary like Charlie Parker or progressive like John Coltrane , but his playing influenced many musicians. One of Gordon's lovable ticks was to recite the lyrics first before playing a jazz standard .

Because of his height of 1.96 m he was nicknamed Long Tall Dex .


  • Dexter Gordon on Dial; The Complete Recordings (Spotlite, 1947)
  • Doin Alright (1961, Blue Note Records )
  • Dexter Calling (1961, Blue Note)
  • GO! (1962, Blue Note)
  • A Swingin 'Affair (1962, Blue Note)
  • Our Man in Paris (1963, Blue Note)
  • One Flight Up (1964, Blue Note)
  • More than You Know (SteepleChase, 1975)
  • Homecoming (1976) (Live at Village Vanguard )
  • The Other Side Of Round Midnight (Blue Note)
  • Tokyo 1975 (Elemental, ed. 2018)
  • Espace Cardin 1977 (Elemental, ed. 2018)
  • At the Subway Club 1973 (Elemental, ed. 2019)


  • 1955: Escape - Die Flucht ( Unchained ) (appearance as saxophone player not mentioned in the credits)
  • 1986: Um Mitternacht ( Round Midnight ) (leading role, musical advice and composer of the songs Society Red and Tivoli )
  • 1990: Awakenings ( Awakenings )


  • Stan Britt : Dexter Gordon ... not just at midnight. Translated from the English by Franz Josef Stupp. Hannibal, Vienna 1990, ISBN 3-85445-063-X .
  • Maxine Gordon: Sophisticated Giant. The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon , University of California Press 2018, ISBN 978-0-520-28064-9

Web links

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